SXSW Live Shot: Japan Nite
Family reunion No. 20
By Richard Whittaker,
11:40AM, Sat. Mar. 21, 2015
Happy 20th anniversary, Japan Nite. You may no longer be the cool kid on SXSW’s pan-Asiatic block since that title likely goes to Thursday night’s Korean celebration. Your crowd skews a little older, and the sweatbox ambiance owed more to the unseasonal downpour boiling off than a super-crazy crowd.
Yet there’s a family reunion feel, a warm knowledge that the same crowd poured love onto the stage in 2011 to bands still shell-shocked from the tsunami and Fukushima meltdown. There’s also the assurance that Japan Nite will deliver a sheer good time, bounce-along fun like Samurai Dynamites.
Old timers get the nod towards 2008 performers Asakusa Jinta in the former’s joyous fusion of ska and chindon’ya street music. That the only recognizable song to U.S. ears was a translated version of “Twisting the Night Away” made no difference. Ditto for returning alums Pirates Canoe.
The privateers’ delicate, Western Swing-influenced pop struggled with Elysium’s cranky acoustics, much as Andrews Sisters revivalists the Barberettes did Thursday. That and the chatty crowd that needed hushing for the mellower moments. “This is our hard rock set,” their frontwoman joshed after a bluegrass revival of “Born This Way” and before a country roads trip to the “Love Shack.”
A small contingent of cowboy-boots-and-cutoffs fans present didn’t need to be told that was their cue to shimmy.
Chillwavers the fin. made less headway against the constant conversation, their post-New Wave melodic pop occasionally disappearing behind bar talk. One accidental burst of feedback aside, Monumou flew their twee pop flag, well, meekly, and charming as a summer meadow (mandatory English language cover: a heart-ripping drift through “Time After Time.”)
After hair-swirling stoner rockers Quorum, it was left to food obsessives Tsushimamire to deliver what Japan Nite has always done best: badass, high-kicking, face-shredding, guitar-driven, post-punk mayhem. Happy 20th, Japan Nite. See you when you’re 21.
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